The use of telemedicine or telehealth for mental health appointments has surged in recent years, with over half (55%) of all such appointments now being conducted remotely through videoconferencing. This form of care allows patients to receive medical attention through technology such as cellphones, video chat, computers, and tablets.
A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine analyzed patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs from January 1, 2019 through August 31, 2023, covering over 277 million outpatient visits by 9 million veterans. The study found that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly once the coronavirus pandemic began, becoming much more common than in-person visits. For primary care and mental health care, in-person appointments dropped from 81% to 23% in the first few months of the pandemic.
By spring 2023, phone-based care had returned to its pre-pandemic level but video-based care remained close to its peak during the pandemic, representing a whopping 2,300% increase from its pre-pandemic level. Researchers noted that while most primary care and medical specialist care still require in-person evaluations such as physical examinations, mental health services can easily adapt to virtual platforms. As a result, the majority of mental health care continues to be provided via telemedicine.
This article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series which provides a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks provided.